The Use of Symbolism in a Hero of Our Time

Topics: The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Novel, Mikhail Lermontov Pages: 4 (1522 words) Published: October 30, 2010
Catarina Botto
World Literature: The use of symbols to portray characters in A Hero of Our Time and The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

In the novels The Unbearable Lightness of Being and A Hero of Our Time, the two authors use symbols to represent certain characters. In both books these symbols are used as extended metaphors, by doing this the authors allow the reader to have a better understanding of the character, their personality, attitudes and relationships. To do this, however, the two authors use different approaches. In Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being he uses symbols to reflect his protagonist’s two lovers, he does this by consistently associating them to specific objects that they relate to. On the other hand Mikhail Lermontov uses parallels to show the way in which his main character sees two secondary characters in the novel. Despite both authors using symbols to represent their characters, both their purpose and their approach is very different. In The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Tomas, the protagonist has a long-term lover, Sabina. In the novel Sabina is portrayed as a bowler hat, which she herself describes as a leitmotif in her life. This bowler hat is used as a symbol for all her own characteristics, her relationship with Tomas, as well as various special moments in her life. Sabina is a very erotic, individual person and the hat makes her feel that way “she put on the hat and put it on her head, the image in the mirror was instantaneously transformed”. It also symbolizes her rebellion, as after her grandfathers death out of spite she sarcastically said she would take the hat as her sole inheritance. Similarly, it acts as a symbol to her two relationships with Tomas, and then Franz. The bowler hat was turned into an exotic object by Sabina and Tomas, symbolizing the playfulness and lightness of their relationship. When she tries to do the same thing with Franz, he removes it from her head. This action shows the contrast...
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